Wednesday, August 29, 2007

FactCheck Has Company

You can measure the credibility of an organization by noting how much it’s interested in achieving its stated goal, rather than in taking credit for it.

For example, if an organization is dedicated to curing cancer, would it not rejoice if cancer was cured by a competing organization? Or would it try to discredit the cure, or inhibit the progress of finding the cure?

Moving from cancer to politics — not much of a stretch, actually — our collective hats go off to, the arm of the Annenberg Foundation dedicated to keeping politicians honest, and to informing the public when they are less than so. rose to fame in the 2004 Vice Presidential Debate when Dick Cheney accidentally referred to them as Although a certain George Soros web site suddenly got a lot of hits, the confusion was cleared up the next day and I suddenly became a fan of this wonderful site.

It is the purpose of (emphasis on the ORG!) to check on all the things that politicians say in public — both mundane and outlandish. When the outlandish is discovered, (emphasis on the ORG!) rushes into action, publicly chastising the politician and setting the record straight. They are entirely non-partisan; Democrats and Republicans get equal treatment. They have no bones to pick; nothing to sell except the truth. It is truly American politics at its finest.

So I was pleasantly surprised when an email landed in my inbox from (emphasis on — oh, I’m tired of that joke already) with the subject line, “We Have Company!”

That’s right FactCheck (dot whatever) is actually announcing the arrival of their competition. And, in true character with the organization, they couldn’t be happier.

The St. Petersburg Times has started a new web site, (Yep, they’re a for-profit newspaper; dot-com is okay.)

Whereas deals mostly in the hard truth (or fiction) of an item, attempts a little bit of qualitative judgment by assigning each item a “Truth-o-meter” rating. This unique 6-level scale rates each fact from “True” through “Half-True” all the way to “Pants on Fire!” has been known to get slightly whimsical at times. Joe Biden’s comment that “The president is brain-dead” got an unmerciful “Pants on Fire!” rating, noting that brain death is defined as “irreversible unconsciousness with complete loss of brain function”. Gee, lighten up; I think a little poetic license in political rhetoric is acceptable.

But the point is that welcomed the competition with open arms. Gotta give them credit for that. In a time where everybody is clambering for their share of the pie, says the water’s fine, come on it. has always gotten my vote for their unbiased reporting and diligent quest for the truth. Once again, they have shown their true colors. They are more interested in getting the facts out there than they are in taking credit for it. And I admire them for that.